The Speech Surgery part two - icebreakers and tips for the best man

groom giving speech at wedding

The Speech Surgery - with Heidi Ellert McDermott, Founder of Speechy and author of The Modern Couple’s Guide to Wedding Speeches

The wedding speech tradition is as prevalent as ever and is still very much one of the key parts of the day. For some, public speaking comes quite naturally, and they wouldn't think twice about standing up and 'performing' on cue, while for others it may cause sleepless nights and anxiety but the pressure of pleasing a loved one means you can't say no! Fear not, whether you're a pro and want to heighten your speech, or a novice and you need some advice on how to settle those nerves, Heidi is here to answer your all-important questions... 

How can we make sure the best man isn’t too inappropriate? 

First of all, does he have to give a speech? Lots of grooms are selecting multiple best men, so can the renegade mate be in charge of the stag do rather than the speech? Maybe ‘Mad Pete’ can be in charge of the rings and ‘Sensible Sam’ can be on speech-duty. Of course, if the groom really wants his edgy mate on the mic, then it can be helpful to give his best man some speech-guidance prior to the day. 

This is the sort of info that’s helpful without seeming too controlling.
•    Introduction – Do they need to introduce themselves or will there be an MC on the day? 
•    Mic – Will they be expected to use one? 
•    Expected duration – We usually recommend a speech should be between 1,000 and 1,300 words but if the best man is a bit of a liability maybe suggest aiming for 1,000! 
•    Anything specific to avoid – Yes, sometimes it’s worth mentioning you’d prefer not to be reminded about any exes on your wedding day.
•    Language – Sometimes friends haven’t considered if children will be at the wedding (or they just don’t care). If you do, make sure you brief your speakers about what’s appropriate. I generally say that b-words are the profanity limit (as most parents will know that a few ‘bloody bollocks’ may be dropped when the best man takes the mic) but this is something you have to gauge depending on your guestlist. 
•    Behaviour – A gentle reminder about the range of guests at the wedding (‘Great Aunty Betty’s coming!’) will hopefully be enough of a warning without turning the ‘honour’ of speaking turning into a begrudging obligation. 

Ultimately, try not to worry it too much. 

As much as the speeches have the power to add something marvellous to your day, they certainly shouldn’t add additional stress. Don’t start thinking they need to be Oscar-worthy and don’t feel you’re responsible for the words coming out of other people’s mouths. On the day, just need to sit back and hope people say nice things about you! 


I want to start with a good icebreaker but all the googled-gags are awful. How can I add humour to my groom speech? 

Great question. Resorting to the ‘classic’ wedding jokes is a mistake so many grooms still make. Telling a bad joke is worse than no joke and googled gags are generally very bad. That’s because 1) we’ve heard them all before and 2) they’re generic and meaningless. 

Sadly though, we still get speeches sent to us at Speechy that include lines like these… 
•    ‘Gosh, what an emotional day it’s been. Even the cake is in tiers!’ 
•    ‘I just want to start by congratulating my father in law on their wonderful speech. I always knew it would be hard to follow and I was right, I couldn’t follow a word of it.’ 
•    ‘Where do I start with (name)? They’re kind, intelligent, gorgeous, charming, and… (pause, look at partner) …  sorry, I’m having trouble reading your writing.’
- lines like these will elicit groans, not laughter!

The golden rule is, if the joke could be used in someone else’s wedding speech, it probably shouldn’t be in yours. Instead, look at the reality of your wedding day and the people at the top table.  
One of the most effective forms of comedy writing is observation. So, simply say what you see. You could start by some self-depreciating humour (proven to be the most effective forms of comedy when it comes to winning an audience over). 

For example, you could say …

‘It’s wonderful to see all our friends and family here today and I must admit, you don’t get a better cause for celebration than this…Yes (your partner) has finally given up holding out for (insert your partner’s fantasy man – e.g. Ryan Gosling) and married me instead. 

As I pointed out to her there are already a few similarities … (list 3 very tenuous similarities) e.g.

•    Ryan starred in the Mickey Mouse club when he was younger. I too had a Mickey Mouse.
•    Ryan has facial hair. I do too.
•    And both our names start with the letter R.

What more could a woman want?’

Or perhaps you could play with the wedding venue. If the wedding is a boho-one and you’re partying in a field, maybe open by welcoming everyone to the ‘wedding venue’…. ‘yes, we looked at Highclere Castle and we considered Shaw House but when we shared the guestlist with them, they said they had no availability … for a decade. (Best man’s name), I’m blaming you!’ 
If you’ve had a long engagement, have fun with that! For example… 

‘Welcome to this whirlwind of a wedding. (roll eyes) 
Yes, it’s taken us eight years to get hitched but at least we know we really, definitely, like each other. And, even when the honeymoon period is now relegated to the previous decade, (you partner) has just promised to tolerate me for the rest of her life and never have I been so thankful for the British legal system!’  

Observational humour not only works for your icebreaker but can also be used to add laughs throughout your speech. Everyone in this world is weird in their very own way, so get a mirror and hold it up to your relationship. Question your behaviour, habits, and unwritten rules. 

We can all relate to other people’s relationships, and people appreciate it if you talk honestly about yours. Okay, not everyone’s partners put sweet chilli sauce on their toast for breakfast, but everyone can appreciate having a partner with weird habits! 
Find your humour in your own personal reality, rather than online. 

For more top tips on giving a great groom's speech visit speechy.com/speechy-advice/groom-speech

Be sure to vist back on Friday 16th February to see The Speech Surgery part three! 

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